I won’t be at La Habra Mayor Steve Simonian’s state of the city address tomorrow morning, but I think I can safely predict one of the accomplishments that he will announce.
In January 2007, Mayor James Gomez said that property had been purchased for a new fire station. Mayor Rose Espinoza said a retaining wall had been built in her 2008 address. Mayor Tom Beamish told the assemblage a year ago that construction had begun. And last night a crew of firefighters from Station 194 spent their first night in the newly-finished firehouse.
It’s been a long wait.
In 2005, La Habra became the first city in the state to contract with a fire department outside their home county when they signed on with the Los Angeles County Fire Department (LACoFD). (All of La Habra’s firefighters were absorbed into the ranks of LACoFD.)
Assistant City Manager Jennifer Cervantez said the negotiation process took a few years. A fourth station in La Habra was part of what LACoFD wanted.
“That became the cornerstone of our agreement with them,” said Cervantez.
At first the station operated out of a double-wide trailer on the banks of Coyote Creek, their truck parked in a tent. One of Station 194’s firefighters (whom I waylaid while he was shopping at Vons) said the biggest problem with the double-wide was boredom, especially when it rained.
I found Captain Fitzpatrick doing a walk-through of their old quarters yesterday. He told me they finished moving the last of the communications to the new station that morning, and the fire-fighters would be eating their first meal in their new house that night.
Wedged into an odd triangle of land on Beach Boulevard carved out of the Coyote Hills, the new station is owned by the City of La Habra, but it’s located in La Mirada. It serves La Habra, La Mirada, and parts of unincorporated Los Angeles.
Cervantez said that LACoFD has sophisticated mapping systems that it uses to determine where stations are needed, and they wanted something on Beach, south of Imperial.
Finding the right property was tough. They even considered using part of the Westridge Golf Course, but when that turned out to be impractical, they settled on the small, irregular plot of land next to the Arco Station and AM/PM Minimart on the corner of Beach Boulevard and Hillsborough Drive.
“I drove by it many many times,” said Cervantez, “thinking, ‘There’s no way the fire station is gonna fit there,’ but it does.”
In order to make the station fit, it had to be two stories, and that means it’s got a fire pole.
“I’m surprised they let us have the pole,” said Fitzpatrick. When I suggested that a pole might raise safety issues, he replied, “Now you’re sounding like a chief.”